Kathleen Furin

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I love helping discouraged writers gain insights which energize them and get them excited about revision!

I'M A COACH

What is your favorite part of the coaching process?

I have so many favorite parts and there is so much that I love about the coaching process! I feel so privileged to be gifted with the stories writers share with me with such openness and courage and trust. I love it when the writer makes a new revelation that changes everything for them. That feeling of, OK, now I know exactly what I need to do to, when everything just clicks and comes together, that is awesome!

What's your coaching style like?

I am able to tailor it to meet the needs of different writers! Writers struggle with different issues, and I try to be responsive. I strive to be supportive and sensitive and encouraging but also relentless. Because writing is really, really hard, and being edited is really, really hard, but at the end of the day the kindest thing I can do is to be relentless and help you make your work the absolute best it can be. Because this is such a competitive industry, and it's not just about your work being good. There are tons of really good writers out there. Your work has to be the absolute best it can be. So it's a balance of really pushing writers, and not holding back about what isn't working, while also empathizing about the challenges and recognizing the unique strengths of each writer.

What genres do you love to edit?

Literary fiction, women's fiction, historical fiction, memoir, romance

What do you love most about editing?

I love helping discouraged writers gain insights which energize them and get them excited about revision! Writing is such hard work, and it can be such a struggle when things aren't working. Guiding a writer through the challenges can also be difficult, but it is so worth it to go through the process and come out on the other side!

Who's your ideal writer match? What are you looking for in a coaching client?

It's hard to say who an ideal writer match is; it's easier to say what it isn't. Writers who are hardest to work with are ones who are not yet ready to hear feedback and use it in a productive way. I remember so well a fellow student in one of the first writing workshops I ever attended. He refused to accept any criticism of his work. He kept saying that what happened in the story actually happened in real life, and so he wouldn't change it. First of all, even when this is the case it doesn't mean your story will actually work. Secondly, if it did happen in real life, then you have lots of info that the reader doesn't have, and you may not be able to see your own blind spots in terms of getting everything down on the page that isn't there yet. So this guy thought we were a bunch of idiots because it was his life and this really happened and therefore our critiques, even very clear and specific feedback, was useless. He actually ended up leaving the workshop. That always stayed with me. Of course everyone wants to hear that your work is wonderful and everything is working really well, but that's not reality. Writing is subjective, and different things will resonate with different readers, and at the end of the day it's your decision what you do with feedback. But if you are not ready to hear feedback and not get defensive then you are probably not ready to be edited. It takes a lot of courage to accept feedback about what isn't working, and it can be hard to do this gracefully, but writers who can do this are the ones who will grow the most. So I think I am just looking for someone who is willing to listen and willing to learn. I'm not always "right," but I am responding to something for a reason; at least be willing to consider my point of view.

What was the moment when you felt like a real book coach?

I wanted to be a book coach before I even knew that there was such a thing! I earned my MFA at NYU and had the opportunity to teach two sections of Creative Writing to undergraduates there. Those classes were the most fun I have ever had in a job! The students were so smart and dedicated and creative, and it was such a privilege to help them develop their work. They worked so hard and were so responsive to feedback but also able to hold on to their own vision for their work...they were awesome to each other and wonderful to work with. But it's hard to pinpoint an exact moment. Just engaging in this process is a gift and a joy.

What do you believe the most prominent difference between an editor and a coach is?

A coach goes beyond just being an editor. Coaching involves problem solving and cheerleading in a way editing doesn't. An editor will comment on the work, whereas a coach has more freedom to also comment on the process. What's happening when you sit down to write? Why can't you get your pages in? What's blocking you? That sort of thing. And I love all of that!

What's been your greatest achievement in coaching so far?

A client who is a beautiful writer had spent a lot of time working on a novel but kept getting feedback which mentioned her lack of focus on story.  After enrolling in the Story Genius course and struggling and digging and thinking things through week after week and me pushing her and her struggling some more she finally figured out what her story was actually about! She was so excited because for the first time in her whole long journey she finally felt like she had a story in the works rather than just a series of events. We were both so thrilled! I know it can be discouraging to hear similar feedback week after week but when you keep at it and keep digging eventually you will find gold.

How did you hear about Author Accelerator?

When I was working at the Frances Goldin Literary Agency. One of the clients there used Author Accelerator to complete his book and I was intrigued.

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IN MY DOWNTIME...

What's your favorite word?

How is it possible to have one favorite word? And is it a favorite word because of how it sounds or because of what it means? I love how certain words sound in Spanish. But English? "Transcendent," maybe. "Sunrise"? My daughter's favorite words are "oxymoron" and "hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia," which means a fear of long words.  So I'll put hers down here. :)

What genres do you love to read?

Literary fiction, women's fiction, historical fiction, memoir, romance

What are five of your favorite books?

  • The Temple of My Familiar
  • Ceremony
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • Anna Karenina
  • Bad Feminist

Who are five of your favorite authors?

  • Leslie Marmon Silko
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Sherman Alexie
  • ZZ Packer
  • Flannery O'Connor

If you could meet any author, who would it be and why?

There are so many writers I would love to meet, and I have been fortunate to meet (and work with) some great ones. I love interacting with all writers, including beginning writers and new students. The person I've always wanted to meet the most, though, isn't a writer, but I have to put her anyway, because there is so much I want to know about her. Harriet Tubman was fierce and fearless and defied all odds and expectations about who she was and what she was supposed to be. I'm fascinated with people who are able to transcend horrific circumstances such as enslavement, and she was not only able to escape herself but help others do so as well. I've always wanted to know more about her strength and inner fortitude and grit. But I'm also curious about her unique flaws, the things about her that make her human. She wasn't a writer, but she embodied qualities most writers need, and she would have amazing stories.

What are you most excited about right now?

Going to the beach! I am a beach addict, and try to spend as much time as possible there in the summers. Also, my oldest daughter is starting to look at colleges, and going on tours has been really exciting, except it also makes me sad to think about her leaving soon. I'm really excited about the work I do with teen parents and some changes we have made to our program for the fall.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer!

What does a typical day look like for you?

It varies so much, which I love! The best days start with yoga or a hike and end on the dance floor, but those best days are rare! I was a social worker before I returned to school for my MFA, and I still run a support group for teen mothers and am developing a parenting program for fathers who are currently incarcerated, so depending what day of the week it is some of my time is devoted to this work.  I teach Narrative Theory and work as a writing tutor at Philadelphia University, so if school is in session I am busy with students. I prioritize my husband and our daughters, so regular time with them is important. I try to write on a regular schedule, often with a friend—we hold each other accountable!—but often that's the first thing to go when things get crazy.

If you could fast-forward a year from now, what would your writing life look like?

I would love to have a book deal with a traditional publisher. I have signed with an agent, but nothing yet! In the meantime I have been trying to stay focused on my writing process. When life gets overwhelming too often my own writing is the first thing to go; I would like to be more focused and able to keep to my writing schedule and keep being productive no matter what else is happening around me.

What about 5 years from now?

Definitely a book deal (or two)! My daughters have been begging me to write a YA about a story I used to tell them, and I've sort of played around with it. We'll see.

Have any exciting writing news?

Here's a link to a recently published story.